Alternative Development programmes, aimed at encouraging peasants to switch from growing illicit drugs-related crops, play an important role in UN drug control strategies. The record of success, however, is a questionable one. Decades of efforts to reduce global drug supply, using a combination of developmental and repressive means, managed to shift production from one country to another, but have failed in terms of global impact. TNI argues for de-linking alternative development from the threat of forced eradication and law enforcement and guaranteeing peasants the support required for a sustainable alternative future.
Although the legislative trend in Colombia has tended towards the criminalization of possession and consumption of psychoactive substances, decriminalization prevailed when it comes to jurisprudence. In addition, while the government of former President Álvaro Uribe Vélez (2002-2010) insisted on prohibiting, persecuting and punishing drug consumption through legislative and judicial channels, the country’s health sector, influenced by more progressive trends for dealing with consumption, made important progress in the areas of risk and harm reduction.
Since his election in 2012, President Otto Pérez Molina has been encouraging public debate regarding the need for national drug policy reform. The plea was mainly directed to the international community: firstly to the governments of Central America, followed by a call upon the Americas Summit, then to the Organisation of American States (OAS), and finally to the UN. Although a review of the country’s existing legal framework on drugs was announced on several occasions, law reform proposals have yet to be presented in Guatemala’s parliament.
In December 2013 we had undoubtedly the biggest news of the last few decades concerning drug policy: Uruguay became the first country in the world to adopt a law regulating the production, sale and consumption of cannabis throughout the national territory. Amidst heated debate, the project was approved on July 31, 2013 by the Chamber of Deputies, and on December 10, 2013 by the Senate. A few days later President José Mujica formally enacted the law that will regulate the cannabis market.
Sixty-five percent of Germans say they would reject relaxing laws restricting the production, sale and consumption of marijuana, according to the study conducted by opinion pollsters Forsa for Stern magazine. Just under a third of those asked (29 percent) would like to see the drug legalized, while six percent said they have no opinion on the issue. Among supporters of the Green Party, those in favour of legalization jumped up to 51 percent. The poll of 1,003 Germans will come as a blow to Berlin Green politician Monika Herrmann, who is battling to open a Dutch-style coffee shop in the capital.
Despite 40 years of prohibition, Danes smoke cannabis. If prohibition continues another 40 years, Danes will still smoke it. So too will residents in Uruguay, Colorado, Washington and the other US states that will inevitably follow suit. But while they will light up legally and boost state coffers, Danes will still be lining the pockets of hardened criminals. (See also: No plans to follow Colorado's lead on cannabis)
Turin's city council has approved a motion in favour of making the drug legal for therapeutic purposes, making it the first of Italy's large cities to do so. The proposal is an appeal to the Italian parliament that they "move from a prohibitionist structure to one where soft drugs, particularly cannabis, are legally produced and distributed". This means that while the vote doesn't make it legal to consume, buy or sell cannabis for individual use yet, it paves the way for a more tolerant view of the drug in the eyes of the law.
Ahead of the High-Level Segment on the world drug problem to take place on 13th and 14th January 2014, the UNODC Executive Director, Yuri Fedotov, has released his "contributions" to the debate. This 19-page document is, in parts, refreshingly honest about the “unequal” progress that has been made since 2009 (with reductions in supply or demand for some drugs in some places being offset by increases elsewhere), the setbacks and new challenges, and the fact that “the overall magnitude of drug demand has not substantially changed at the global level”.
UN member states are currently in the process of hammering out a ‘Joint Ministerial Statement’ for the upcoming High Level Review of the world drug response – at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in March. At the most recent ‘inter-sessional meeting’, exasperated delegates of all ideological persuasions repeated variations of the refrain “we’ve already done this…this language is in the Political Declaration…we debated this last year…this paragraph was already settled by consensus.”
Some 20 years ago, a Spanish official in favor of lifting the ban on drugs such as marijuana mentioned at a UN meeting that there "might be a more humane option" in the fight against trafficking. She was immediately taken aside by a senior diplomat, who told her in no uncertain terms: "Don't say things like that round here, not even in the washroom." Today, the same official says that internal documents are now circulating within the UN that openly admit to the failure of prohibition.
Alle 25 Nederlandse burgemeesters die verzoeken hadden ingediend om te experimenteren met gereguleerde of gedoogde aanvoer van cannabis naar de coffeeshops, kregen als Kerst cadeau van minister Opstelten van Veiligheid en Justitie (VenJ) te horen: “nee, nee en nog eens nee”. En in zijn brief aan de Tweede Kamer klinkt tussen de regels door “en hou nou toch eens op met zeuren want dat gaat echt niet gebeuren”.
France has some of the toughest possession statutes in Europe, but a first of its kind bill proposed could change that. People smoking a joint in France face a maximum penalty of a year behind bars and a €3,750 fine for the first offence, yet 13.4 million French people admit to sparking up at least once in their life. Even France’s Interior Minister Manuel Vallls said in an interview, he’d tried it “maybe once.” Esther Benbassa, the lawmaker behind the legislation tells why marijuana should be legalized in France. Legalizing cannabis has come up regularly in France, but the discussion never has never gotten far.
The relentless crackdown by security forces on the mainly cannabis-smoking youth in Beirut has had several negative repercussions on the Lebanese society. Young, impressionable teenagers in Beirut are increasingly getting drawn to what is called "synthetic cannabis" or otherwise known as "K2" or "spice." A mixture of herbs is usually laced with cannabinoids such as cannabicyclohexanol. The exact effects of this mixture are still not well understood, but early studies suggest a severe increase in chances of psychosis.
In total, 35 local authorities have signed a manifesto calling on the government to sanction official experiments with legal marijuana production. The council leaders argue regulated growing would end the grey area between semi-legalised sales in cannabis cafes and illegal supply by criminal gangs. The signatories include the mayors of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Eindhoven, Utrecht and Groningen. 'The current situation is unsustainable,' said Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb.
In March 2014, country delegations will gather at the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) to review progress and challenges in international drug control since the agreement of a Political Declaration on drugs in 2009. Given that the Political Declaration aims to “eliminate or reduce significantly” the use, supply and demand of controlled drugs by 2019, this meeting represents an important opportunity for honest evaluation and an acknowledgement that these targets are not being achieved. With a United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs just two years away, this is an important time for international drug control policy.
José Mujica has attempted to change the premises and conditions of the drugs wars through the legalisation of marijuana. Although even the people of Uruguay don’t really back their president’s initial reform, it’s a start. Dr Raquel Peyraube, the leading drug treatment specialist in Uruguay, debunks the claim that legalisation will lead to a rise in schizophrenia, saying that if marijuana caused schizophrenia, the rate of the illness would have risen across society over the past few decades, since marijuana use has grown. Yet the rate has held steady.
The eleventh Informal Drug Policy Dialogue took place in Athens. Topics amongst others were the national drug policy and drug situation in Greece, current affairs in Vienna, global cannabis policy developments and the upcoming UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs in 2016.
In a manifesto, mayors of cities including Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht argue that the current laws allowing the sale but banning the cultivation of marijuana mean the nation’s cannabis cafés have to turn to illegal gangs for their supply, encouraging organised crime and wasting valuable police time dismantling unlawful plantations.
A Swiss parliamentary committee looking into drug issues wants to reopen the debate on the legalization of marijuana in the wake of developments in the US, Uruguay and New Zealand. "Many models that exist around the world should be studied and analyzed, that is the basis of our reflection," according to committee president Toni Berthel. Switzerland moved to liberalize its drug laws with legislation taking effect on October 1, 2013, that made possession of small amounts of marijuana a ticketing offence. A working group with representatives from Zurich, Basel, Geneva and Bern will discuss possible projects "in the field of cannabis regulation".